· Ben Benson's Steak House
123 West 52nd Street, New York, NY
"The hash browns are to die for," says one fan of this West Side treasure—maybe not the most important item on the menu, but a telling detail. Service is friendly, seating is cozy, and the room has a welcoming feel, even when crowded. Great starters such as a crab and mushroom casserole whet the appetite for the exceptional steaks. The trim, carefully chosen wine list has many verticals, and if you want a more recent vintage, it's worth asking what's in the back.
· Charlie Palmer Steak
101 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Just a short distance from the Capitol, don't be surprised to find the Secret Service discreetly positioned around the entrance. Quiet and posh, Charlie Palmer's sophisticated décor attracts the power elite, and the food lives up to its billing as "progressive American cuisine." The "wine cube" holds 3,500 bottles (of more than 10,000 in the cellar) of exclusively American wines from every state in the Union. Sides include Goat Cheese Tubetti Gratin and Chanterelles along with classics such as creamed corn; the wine list is delivered on a handheld, touch-screen computer.
· Grill 23 & Bar
161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA
An open kitchen and two floors of seating occupy this noisy and popular Back Bay restaurant. The beef is purebred and purchased exclusively from family ranches. The extensive wine list features classic Bordeaux, cult California and super Tuscans. The menu covers all the steak bases, supplemented with lots of seafood and quirky sides such as truffled tater tots and tobacco onions. A perennial award-winner.
· Sparks Steak House
210 East 46th Street, New York, NY
Expensive and atmospheric, Sparks has a long and colorful history. "The best steak I've ever eaten," notes one well-traveled winemaker, "I can still taste the ribeye with Roquefort—not blue cheese, but real Roquefort." Killer wine list. The service, according to some reviewers, can be spotty, and the wait for a table, even with reservations, can be an hour or more.
· The Prime Rib
2020 K Street NW, Washington, DC
"Lots of D.C. power types," notes one frequent diner, "which is to say Congressmen treating their 'daughters'." An institution, now in its 30th year, the restaurant still maintains a strict jacket-and-tie dress code. It's elegant, formal, romantic and traditional, with black tie-clad waiters and grand piano music during lunch and dinner. The menu offers classic starters such as clams casino and Petrossian caviar; a hearts of palm salad, dry-aged steaks and plenty of creamed, sauced and buttered vegetables. Check out the "Lust-Coconut Pudding Torte" for dessert.
· Bern's Steak House
1208 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL
Is there a more famous steakhouse in the world? Bern's, now a half-century old and going strong, claims to have the biggest wine list of any restaurant in the world, even though they have reportedly shrunk the wine list to a "more manageable" 7,000 bottles. While perusing this phonebook-size tome, it's easy to overlook the food. Don't! While you're sipping one of the dozens of nicely-aged wines offered by the glass, consider whether to have the incredibly fresh seafood, one of the cut-to-order steaks, or better yet, both. Unlike most à la carte menus, Bern's includes all the extras: soup, baked potato, onion rings, salad, you name it. Also included: a "reservation" in the dessert room; that, and a tour of the wine cellar, should not be missed.
· Bone's Restaurant
3130 Piedmont Road, Atlanta, GA
The gold standard in Atlanta, Bone's gets high marks from diners for service, consistency, great desserts and especially its gloriously tender steaks, frequently lauded as the best in town. Want something "southern" on the side? Try the grit fritters. Pecan pie with praline sauce is a must for dessert, of course, though it's hard to resist the "Mountain-High Pie" house specialty. The wine list has few surprises, but it's well priced.
· Jackson's Steak House
450 East Las Olas Boulevard,
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Cigar and wine lockers, offered on-site, are a sure sign that this place has regulars who love its private men's club trapping: (mahogany paneling, high-beamed ceilings, brass trim, marble accents and warm fabrics). The menu is classic, the steaks are Prime, the lounge features live jazz seven nights a week, and business types can join the Four Fifty Club, a day-time, lunch-time, members-only option. It is only open to the public for dinner. The wine list has offerings from California, of course, but also pays particular attention to Burgundy, the Rhône and Bordeaux. They also offer selections from Australia, Italy and such unusual offerings as Ernie Els from South Africa. Good selection of half bottles also.
· McKendrick's Steak House
4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA
This Atlanta steakhouse is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Its comfy leather seats and Rat Pack ambiance invite you to settle in and relax. It's a popular business meeting place as well, with private rooms capable of holding up to 50 people. Comfort rules, with unpretentious service and a private club atmosphere. The 350-plus bottle wine list leans heavily on California, with plenty of Bordeaux as well.
· Chicago Chop House
60 West Ontario Street, Chicago, IL
This place, in a beautiful Victorian brownstone in the River North neighborhood, has won more than its share of awards for both food and wine offerings; the New York strip is a house specialty. Business and romance play equally well here, especially if historic photos of gangsters and meat-packers give you that warm, fuzzy feeling. The 500-plus bottle wine list is pricey but holds hidden treasures such as Leonetti Sangiovese and Spring Valley Vineyard Syrah. There are some nice verticals (Beringer Reserve, Bryant Family, Colgin, Dalla Valle, Silver Oak), too.
· Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse
1028 N. Rush Street, Chicago, IL
Though our correspondents note that Gibsons is "not as flashy as some of the others, actually kind of funky," the walls are covered with autographed photos of athletes, politicians, TV and movie stars and other celebs who frequent the place, perhaps because Gibsons serves "a really good and really big—as in colossal—piece of beef." Size definitely counts! The martinis get high marks, too.
· Mitchell's Steakhouse
45 North 3rd Street, Columbus, OH
Next time you're in Columbus (football, anyone?) you'll want a table a Mitchell's. The lush, dramatic décor, relaxed pace and high-quality ingredients all contribute to a meal that suggests you stretch out and enjoy yourself. From the bread on, appetizers, salads and side dishes exceed expectations, portions are big, and steaks are tender and juicy. "They have a great and simple service philosophy," reports one fan. "'The answer is yes, what's the question?'"
· Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
5839 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX
713.780.7352; 10477 Lombardy Lane
(Northwest Hwy.), Dallas, TX
With 2,300 wines on the list and a kitchen that knows its beef, Pappas Bros., with two locations, gets rave reviews from both locals and tourists. "Worth every dollar," say several recent visitors. Consistency is the watchword here, with big meat, a classic, club car atmosphere, and impeccable service. The menu offers the usual carnivores' classics, but adds such local must-have's as turtle gumbo soup and jumbo lump crab cakes. Older vintages (how about Heitz Martha's back to the 60s?) and plenty of California classics, which include some great Pinots as well as the Cabs. The on-site wine room can be booked for private dining among the treasures, and private wine storage is also available. Cigars, Ports, Madeiras and Cognacs are there to complete a luxurious, if pricey, evening.
· Perry's Steakhouse & Grille
2115 Town Square Place, Sugar Land, TX
There are now four of these Houston-area, family-owned restaurants—in Clear Lake, Champions and The Woodlands as well as the newest, in Sugar Land—and all feature live jazz, heated outdoor patios and personal wine lockers. Steaks are received fresh daily and are dry-aged in-house. Visitors most often praise the house specialty, a "six-finger" pork chop, dried, cured and roasted for five days, then caramelized and topped with herb-garlic butter sauce.
· Elway's Colorado Steakhouse
2500 East First (at University), Denver, CO
Just a year old, Elway's puts a clean, contemporary spin on both menu and décor and gets points for its appealing, value-priced wine list. By-the-glass selections include Sineann's generously fruity Jezebel Pinot Noir ($9), a Colorado Merlot ($8) and even Silver Oak ($23). Starters move well beyond beef-based staples into such temptations as duck tacos, grilled artichokes and coconut and vanilla shrimp. Sides are equally ambitious, and the beef gets A+ reviews from those who like the hand-cut, wet-aged style. The pièce de résistance (at least until the fire marshal finds out about it) is the meal-ending, do-it-yourself S'mores, complete with marshmallows, a table-top flamethrower and a pot of chocolate fondue. Go deep!
· Harris' Steak House
2100 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Opened in 1984, Harris' occupies the opposite end of the ambiance spectrum from Izzy's. Here the atmosphere is classy old San Francisco, the wine list includes cult wines from around the world (see the listings under "Epic Reds"), and the spinach salad comes with applewood-smoked bacon, pine nuts, mushrooms and a soy vinaigrette.
· Izzy's Steak & Chop House
3345 Steiner (at Chestnut), San Francisco, CA
Izzy Gomez has passed away, but his 1930s-era saloon-cum-steak house remains a local favorite. Izzy's has but one location, a basic meat-and-sides menu featuring plenty of creamed vegetables (scalloped potatoes being the house specialty), and a modest wine list. Décor is casual, relaxed and noted for its imposing wall of sauces. Izzy's prices are relatively modest as far as steakhouses go, and the ambiance is boisterous. If you can snag a booth, you'll enjoy a (somewhat) quieter meal.
· Metropolitan Grill
820 Second Avenue, Seattle, WA
Crowded and lively from lunchtime onward, the Met, as it's affectionately known, is the chosen land for steak lovers and celebrity hounds in Seattle. In a city sadly deficient in great old buildings and classic bars, this sets the standard for both. Cuts of beef are proudly displayed right off the entrance. The bar is somewhat isolated and offers a quieter place to sip and people watch. The restaurant spreads out over multiple levels, and the tuxedoed waitstaff is friendly, knowledgeable and elegant. The excellent wine list specializes in West Coast reds.
· RingSide Downtown
2165 West Burnside, Portland, OR
Ringside lays claim to "the best steaks in town since 1944!" You'll get no argument from Oregon's wine community, who wholeheartedly endorse it as Portland's best. James Beard, an Oregonian himself, called the onion rings "the best I've ever had," and they still live up to their reputation. The locals love this place for its food, but they also come for its exceptional wine list, which offers multiple vintages of many of the best Oregon Pinots and Washington Cabs. California is well represented, too.
· Taylor's Prime Steakhouse
3361 West 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA
Sometimes overlooked, because it's been around a long while (since 1953) and is studiously un-hip (red Naugahyde booths, gray-haired clientele), Taylor's gets praised for offering "great steak at great prices." Try the two-inch thick "Culotte," a specially tender top sirloin, and ask for a seat at the mezzanine bar. The wine list won't win many prizes, but it will suffice.